(Editors note: If you missed any of the previous parts of Tim Leeming’s Magic Window series they can be found Here; NASCAR Guest Articles Archives – Pure Thunder Racing )
If you have stayed with us through all 8 chapters of this journey, I appreciate it and I hope you enjoyed it. The stories are totally and completely as accurate as my memory can allow. I am “the kid”, Tim. I wrote the story as I did because I didn’t want to keep using “I” and “me” all the time. It’s time to wrap up this part of my life’s adventure, but I want to let you, the reader, meet the folks who were a part of all this. Last names are not used for specific reasons.
The two folks who took me to my first race in late August, 1952, where my Grandfather Dewey and my Uncle Bobby. Bobby was 11 years older than I and was my mother’s youngest brother. Bobby was a mechanical wizard and loved to drive fast. My first time over 100 mph was in his 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. My first time driving over 100 miles per hour was in his 1959 Dodge convertible. Both events happening on “the flats” which was a long stretch of Highway 215 not far from the house.
Bobby lived just across the street from my parents and I was a constant companion to him when he wasn’t at work. I tried to learn all the ins and outs of mechanics but most of it just never clicked with me. Bobby was patient though. Bobby was such a race fanatic that we were gone three and four times a week to short tracks and then started hitting the major speedways in 1957 at the first convertible race at Darlington. We were at the first race at Charlotte in June of 1960. Our first Daytona trip was February, 1962. Atlanta, the spring race of 1963. We were at the first race at Rockingham in October, 1965. Didn’t make the first ‘Dega race because we had our race car then. My grandfather died when I was just 9 so Bobby was the mainstay of that side of the family.
My brother Richard was involved with my team from the start, but got his first race car shortly after my first race so he was busy with that getting it ready for the 1970 season. We were competitors but we were brothers and while we were not the Allisons, we sure had a lot of fun both on the off the track.
Tommy and Eddie, the two guys who made up by first crew were lifelong friends. Both went in the Air Force and left just after Thanksgiving, 1969. Eddie decided to make a career there and Tommy returned home after 3 years in late 1972. When Tommy came home he wanted to race so I gave him that 1957 Plymouth we had built so he could finish it and race, and that he did. He raced Columbia Speedway but his primary track was Greenville-Pickens. I didn’t get to make but a couple of his races. He was the cautious Herman Beam type driver but he enjoyed it. Tommy committed suicide for reasons unknown to anyone after his 1979 season. They found him hanging inside the garage by his race car. Eddie would be killed in December, 1999, while working for a bank driving FDIC deposits on the highways of Florida at night.
Marty, the guy who had the pickup truck that pulled the car to the track, was a really super guy. He could do anything with a hammer and a saw because his Daddy was a contractor and taught him well. I don’t know what became of Marty because after the Plymouth was wrecked in 1971 and there was no race car, he sort of drifted off and the girl he married was no race fan. Sam, or Sammy as he was known then, contributed much to our team. He and I recently reconnected after all these years on Social Media.
Roger and George, the Chevy and Ford of the Competition Incorporated racing team stayed around although Roger parked and sold his Chevy after only a handful of races. George kept at it, with moderate success. I am social media friends with Roger and we chat often on line and I’m a little ashamed he lives just across town and we haven’t even gotten together. George I see more often than I care to. The reason I say that is because the last five times I’ve seen him has been at funerals. He lives out of town, but still in South Carolina, and he does return to Columbia for the funerals of those we all knew. Sad thing about that is it seems more and more often now that George and I see each other.
All the “fans” who assembled inside the fourth turn fence that first race were folks I grew up with, went to school with, and just met along the way. Debbie, Bobby’s daughter, thus my cousin and Eddie’s brother Randy were both there and had made banners to wave as the number 83 came around. Randy lives in Atlanta now and every time I see him I marvel at the fact that he has never changed. He still looks to be the 17 year old kid in that infield. Debbie and I are still close and she lives only two miles from me.
The guy who “loaned” us the trailer to tow the car to Augusta and let us use it the remainder of the season, Herbert, was as good an engine builder as there was for the Hobby Cars. His cars consistently won the Championships and he moved up to the Late Model and did the same thing. His “gruff” demeanor was a disguise for the wonderful sharing person he was. I attended his funeral too and was there with almost every short track driver that ran in South Carolina and Georgia from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies.
Dan Scott, the NASCAR official with whom I became close friends died several years ago. I didn’t hear about his death until two weeks afterwards as I was out of town. Dan is someone I will always admire for his honesty and his total dedication to NASCAR. Our friendship was one “for the books.” I can’t drive by Columbia Speedway or attend the AIRPS meetings in Augusta without thinking about Dan. I am so thankful he was a part of my racing life.
The gentleman who donated his stable materials to build our garage was Pete. Pete was one very generous and nice man and he knew how to get rid of that stable and get it all cleaned up. He would often walk over to the garage and wouldn’t say much, but was fascinated by the race car. He died many years ago and I attended that funeral. I recall the church was packed to capacity with some folks unable to get inside. His kindness and generosity was reflected by all those friends.
Willie, the guy who led the City of Columbia Police Racing Team on the best car chase since Steve McQueen in “Bullitt” worked so hard I often wondered when he slept. After Willie finished as crew chief on both Tim and Richard’s cars, he became simply “Will” and started driving short tracks. As good as he was with a wrench he was even better behind the wheel. He had a tremendously successful career on short tracks before moving to the NASCAR Goody’s Dash Touring Division. Will won many races in that division, including Daytona and was the National Champion in 1994 I believe it was. He had two sons follow in his footsteps and both were good.
Leonard, the guy who gave me a chance in the Chevy that didn’t work out, was a great driver. If I had done better that first run, or if he had seen where he could make money with me driving, or at least not lost money, I would have probably run the entire season. I have tremendous respect for Leonard and I was honored to be the Master of Ceremonies when he was inducted into the Augusta International Raceway Hall of Fame.
The Menace called Dennis is someone I was sure I would never forget and when I started writing this piece, he immediately came to mind. Found him on social media and we’ve had a couple of good chats since then. He remembers the events we shared at least as vividly as do I. Was great chatting with him.
Carroll, a big rotund individual with a Southern Accent worthy of Scarlett O’Hara, sponsored our car through his heating and air-conditioning company in 1971. Our team had the money to field a first class car and that’s what we did, thanks to Willie and to the sponsorship. Only problem was the driver was not up to the class of the car and team. But we had fun.
The end of the Plymouth came in the wreck when Al blew the engine in his Chevy and the right front tire of the Plymouth blew, sending the car into the rail road track guard rail. Jay came off turn four and may have seen the two wrecked cars and froze at the wheel, or at least that’s the way it looked to me as I watched him coming at me full steam ahead. When everything was over that night, all of us got together and were still the good friends we were before the race started.
I’m sure you’ve heard of how it was with drivers then. Everyone was friends and that is as true a statement as was ever spoken. There was no blame, no arguments and no fights in our group. I guess it was, for us, a real treat to be on the race track.
The four guys who came to the front for the 1973 season were Earl, Glen, Lance, and the fourth guy I simply cannot remember. He really wasn’t around us that much. And I can’t recall the name of Earl’s stepson who helped on that car so much. He was 16 or 17 then and a really great kid although shy and soft-spoken. I sincerely have no idea what happened to any of those guys and my efforts to find them through social media and other means have not produced results.
There were so many guys I raced with over those five years at Savannah, Columbia, Augusta and Myrtle Beach I won’t dare attempt to start listing names. Some of their cars I can remember and some are just fuzzy parts of an old photograph tucked away somewhere.
I do clearly remember the guy I hit at Myrtle Beach that June night in 1973. I have not seen nor talked to James but I’ve heard he was and still is a huge race fan. Someone even told me he came to Myrtle Beach to see me race so I know that sometime before that fateful night I have met him and talked with him. I also wish I remembered the name of that deputy sheriff who drove me to the emergency room after the accident. He was/is the epitome of what a law enforcement officer should always be.
I will wrap this up by saying my only regret in all this story was injuring that fan. I had the time of my life every week, no matter the outcome, because I was doing what I had dreamed of all my life. I never did win a race but I was second often which makes me the FIRST loser. At least that is a first I can claim
My brother went on to a moderately successful career in Late Models ending in 1978 I think. He ran a lot of good races and had some amazing finishes against some of the well-known greats such as Harry Gant, Butch Lindley and even Dale Earnhardt, Sr.
I am now involved in efforts to accurately preserve stock car racing history. I co-host a radio show on Tuesday and Thursdays evenings, 7 pm ET on the iCast Media Network. We bring on the drivers and engine builders from the early days forward to tell how it was in their own words. Not by means of advertisement here but to mention, you can find me at www.ghosttracksmedia.racing and the show is live every Tuesdays and Thursday evenings and the archives are all posted to listen when you want. (Links below).
It’s been an amazing adventure and an amazing life for me. I hope you all have enjoyed reading about the kid and the dream. Thank you.
(Editor’s note: This story is publish with the permission from the author! It was originally published on Race Fans Forever. )
Photo Credits Cover: June 16, 1951: NASCAR Cup race at Columbia Speedway. Georgia driver Gober Sosbee No. 22 1950 Cadillac. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)